PROVIDENCE: After coronavirus (Covid-19) forced the West Indies and Pakistan Twenty20 International series to trim from five to four, the first game which was initially scheduled to be second was a no-result with rain having the final say at the Kensington Oval in Barbados, during midweek.
Both sides now prepare to do battle in Guyana for the final three matches at the Providence Stadium in Providence with the first of them on Saturday. It will be another restart to what is the final dress rehearsal for the West Indies as one unit before they defend their World T20 title in the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
While West Indies will be buoyed after a 4-1 success over the Australians, they will know the Pakistan will prove an even greater test. This will be the sixth bilateral T20 series between the two teams, Pakistan have dominated the West Indies with wins in four out of the previous five series.
West Indies won the one-off T20 match between the two sides in 2011, Pakistan have held the upper hand since. Overall, out of 14 T20 matches, Pakistan have maintained a stranglehold with 11 wins and a mere three defeats. Of these, seven matches have been staged in the West Indies, with Pakistan winning five and losing two.
The last time the two teams played a T20 series on the Caribbean soil was in 2017 with the visitors winning the four-match series 3-1.
From a logistical standpoint, the systems are in place to accommodate a 40 percent capacity of fully-vaccinated fans at the national stadium, and fans must have received their second dose at least vaccinated at least two weeks prior to the date of the match they wish to attend.
When sales commenced on Wednesday, several fans expressed their delight in the return of international cricket to Guyana since 2019, when India visited. The locals here hope for a dominant performance from West Indies and also to see home players Shimron Hetmyer and Kevin Sinclair in action.
West Indies might be forced to make a change to the playing XI that took the field in that opening fixture in Bridgetown on Wednesday after Lendl Simmons retired hurt. Andre Fletcher could be drafted into the team at the top unless captain Kieron Pollard decides to promote Chris Gayle to the opening slot to accommodate another player lower down the order.
Pakistan bowled commendably in the series opener against the strong West Indies batting line-up, and were in control for most of the innings before a late charge from Pollard took the hosts to a respectable total. Hasan Ali finished with 2-11 in his two overs while the spinners Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan and Usman Qadir gave away only 26 runs for two wickets in their three overs.
With the T20 World Cup just around the corner, Pakistan might want to experiment with the batting line-up, with Sharjeel Khan returning at the top of the order. The visitors didn’t get a chance to bat in the first T20 and it’s unlikely Pakistan will make any changes to the team and will want to give their players, especially the batters, a good run of games ahead of the mega event later this year.
Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2021